Calcium alginate

By Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, CWCMS, DWC

Each month Apple Bites brings you a tool you can apply in your daily practice.


  • Dressing with calcium and sodium fibers made from seaweed
  • Spun into rope or flat dressing form


  • Transforms into a moist gel consistency when it comes into contact with exudate or moisture
  • Absorbs up to 20 times its weight
  • Conforms to the shape of the wound
  • Fills in dead space: As it absorbs moisture and exudate, the gel fibers swell, making the dressing larger than when applied
  • Moist gel consistency will maintain moist healing environment and facilitate autolytic debridement


  • Full- or partial-thickness wound with moderate to heavy exudate, including infected wounds or wounds with tunneling and/or undermining
  • Bleeding wound (helps achieve hemostasis)


  • Third-degree burns
  • Minimal exudate or dry wound


  • Change every 1 to 3 days depending on amount of exudate.
  • Some brands can be left in place up to 5 days.
  • Change when exudate “strike-through” in the top layer or surrounding tissues occurs.
  • If dressing needs to be changed more than twice daily,
  • reassess appropriateness.


  • Cover with secondary dressing.
  • Don’t moisten this product before using.
  • Do not use this product in combination with a hydrogel.
  • If silver-impregnated alginate is used, the dressing must be removed before magnetic resonance imaging procedures.
  • Dressing can dehydrate wound bed. If the wound bed dries, the dressing will not form a gel and may adhere to granulation tissue, causing trauma to healing tissue. If alginate dressing appears dry or sticks to the wound, saturate it with sterile saline or wound cleanser to facilitate dressing removal. If dressing is repeatedly dry upon removal, reassess if continued use of alginate dressing is appropriate.
  • Don’t use too much of the product because overpacking may delay wound healing.

View: Calcium alginate dressing


  • Algicell Calcium Alginate Dressing, DermaGinate Dressing, Kaltostat, Kendall Calcium-Zinc Alginate, Medihoney Alginate Dressing, Restore Calcium Alginate Dressing, Silverlon Calcium Alginate Dressing, and Sorbsan
  • Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Code A6196-A6199: Covered Dressing Change, 1 per day

How to apply rope alginate dressing

  • Using a sterile cotton-tip applicator or gloved finger, gently fill the wound with rope by fluffing and layering the dressing back and forth into the wound.
  • Pack the wound very lightly. Be sure that the dressing comes in contact with all wound surfaces, including areas of undermining or tunneling.
  • Cut any excess rope because overpacking will damage the wound bed.
  • Apply a secondary cover wound dressing. The cover dressing should extend at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) beyond the wound edge. (Note the date, time, and your initials on the outside of the dressing before application.)

Access patient education instructions for alginate dressings.

Nancy Morgan, cofounder of Wound Care Education Institute, combines her expertise as a Certified Wound Care Nurse with an extensive background in wound care education and program development as a nurse entrepreneur. Read her blog “Wound Care Swagger.”

Information in Apple Bites is courtesy of the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI), copyright 2012.

Related posts:

Wound Care Advisor

9 thoughts on “Calcium alginate”

  1. Sara says:

    Hi dear officer
    Im a general surgeon and one of my pt after split thickness graft has hypergranulation tissue in donor site and some part of his recipient . I’m interstated to know if I can use align ate dressing in this 6 years old pt
    I really appreciate it

  2. Nancy E. King says:

    Is it imperative that this dressing be left on for longer than 24 hours? I have a 53 year old female patient who insists on showering every day. I have tried to explain to her that maximum benefit she must leave the dressing in for 2 days. However she claims the dressings become “moldy” and The Silver Alginate dressing looks all dried up “looks like a scab” when she does skip a day showering. She has Grade 3 pressure ulcers on her sacrum. The patient is a T8 parapalegic due to MVA &!in 2006 developed what at the start was a Grade 2 pressure ulcer from a plane ride to Hawaii. Surgeon applied a Wound Vac to site which malfunctioned due to the area of placement, transferring etc. on a daily basis causing massive infection and patient contracted NECROTIZING FASCITIIS causing complete Bi – Lateral amputations. Present wound has little drainage but patient also had colostomy surgery at the time of amputation for fear of Fecal contamination. Slight drainage from rectum but that’s minimal. Do you agree with stressing at least 48 hour application between dressing changes for optimal effects? Also what could be the cause of mold on dressings placed 48 hours prior to removal?

    Thanks for your Help
    Nancy E. King, RN, CCN

    1. Nancy Morgan says:

      Hi Nancy you have a complex case. The way I look at dressings overall is, I have to match the dressing to ensure it compliments the pts lifestyle and what the status of the wound is . Based on your post if its dry then that means there must not be a lot of drainage in the wound and therefore the dressing order should be changed to a dressing that will donate moisture and ensure moist wound healing. Also the “mold” appearance “some” of the dressings are silver in color that is why maybe the pt thinks it turned moldy.
      I would do a re-assessment and based on that I would change the dressing. Hope that helps.

  3. Angela says:

    I have a pt in long term care with pressure ulcer to R lateral knee area 0.5 cm deep very close to seeing bone r/t size wound edges pink small amt of exudate no s/s of infection, is CA alginate appropriate or is there better treatment

    1. Nancy Morgan says:

      Hi Angela,
      CA Alginate is used for draining wounds. If there is only a scant amt of drainage this would not be appropriate. Consider a product that will keep the wound moist just a few ideas-hydrogel (protect the edges w/ moisture barrier)……..OR Medihoney OR a Collagen Gel
      just for a few ideas-hope this helps!

  4. Aymara says:

    Dear Nancy,

    My husband has diabetic ulcers on the sole of his amputated foot. We have been taking care of it changing the dressing every 3 days. I place silvadene, inadine (iodine apposite ) and regular gauze to protect it.

    I came across the calcium align are by Medihoney. The people at the pharmacy assured me that it could be used on diabetic ulcers. Can you shed some light on this issue?

    Most grateful ,


  5. Nancy Morgan says:

    Hi Aymara,

    Since I really don’t know the details of the wound you are working on.

    I will just comment generally on this topic: Medihoney calcium alginate is good for keeping the wound moist, absorb drainage and help with bacteria. And you don’t have to change it every day. So yes this would be an option if your MD prescribed it.

    Hope that helps.


  6. Joanne Blenman says:

    I am a nurse from Georgetown Guyana, South America. I was trained in Canada in specializing in Diabetic Wound Care; International Interprofessional Wound Care Course (IIWCC). I must say I am a wound care fanatic and I get excited to see and care for wounds. I think it’s the joy of not only seeing wounds improve and ultimately heal but more importantly stepping outside the box of confined limitaions (limited resources and options) and exploring other alternative ideas that prove beneficial toward healing of wounds. I love being a wound care nurse and to see positive results but, I also embrace those that prove challanging for me as these help me to become more innovated in bringing out my clincal experience. It helps me to learn what works and what doesn’t.

  7. Barbara Wilson says:

    My husband is a resident in a long term care facility he has two pressure sores near his scrotom they are quite deep and had a large amount of bleeding from these sores the doctor has starte calcium alginate dressing is this treatment beneficial for these sores? Thank you Barbara W

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *